Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Lamb's Quarters as a Vegetable
This should be a familiar scene to anyone with a garden. Chenopodium album, also known as lamb's quarters, fat hen, or goosefoot, an introduced weed which grows in disturbed areas. Give it a big, fat smile when you see it because it's about the best weed you could possibly have. Firstly, it's an annual, so it doesn't produce humongous roots that you will be wrestling out of your beds for years. Secondly, it's an easy weed to pull out - one quick yank, and there it is. If you've got too much, it's very amenable, or should I say susceptible, to being hoed. Thirdly, it's a relative of spinach, rhubarb, beets, chard and buckwheat. As you may deduce, it is not only edible but delicious and nutritious. (Like some others of the family it's high in oxalic acid, so don't eat it by the bushelful. Also, as with other foraged foods, be sure to collect it from an unsprayed and otherwise unpolluted area; I would not pick this in a downtown vacant lot for example, for fear of ground contamination.) And finally, it's prolific - it produces a ton of seeds, and they all come up. What a wonderful weed! Seriously. Some people even plant it as a cover crop. If I can bring myself to leave enough to go to seed, I may try that myself.
I'm not going to give any recipe for it - just use it wherever you would otherwise use spinach or chard. Here it is very quickly steamed and drained.
To prepare it, rinse it very well in cold water - like spinach, it tends to hold a certain amount of grit. The stems are fine if they are small and tender, otherwise strip the leaves from them and discard the stems. They are best when the leaves are full and green, but the flowers (insignificant) and seeds have not yet been produced. In other words, for the next month or so.
It's a wind pollinated plant, so if you have problems with allergies you may not wish to encourage this plant. Or at least be sure to eat them before they flower!
Last year at this time I made Spinach Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese & Egg.